That Explains the Last Book...

George R. R. Martin does his absolute best to convince us that he's really just a big soft feminist at heart:
But Bellafonte's comments still rankle with Martin a year later because he is, at heart, a feminist, despite being cautious about admitting it.
‘There was a period in my life when I would have called myself a feminist, back in the seventies, when the feminist movement was really getting going and growing out of the counter culture of the sixties,’ he says. ‘But the feminist movement has changed. Sometime in the 80s and 90s I read some pieces by women saying that no man can ever be a feminist and you shouldn't call yourself that because it's hypocritical, so I backed off. I thought if the current crop of feminists believes that no man can be a feminist, then I guess I’m not one.’
I tell him men are allowed to be feminists again – that he can have Ryan Gosling, the 21st century’s thinking woman’s crumpet, as his mentor. He chuckles behind his candyfloss beard. ‘To me being a feminist is about treating men and women the same,’ he said. ‘I regard men and women as all human - yes there are differences, but many of those differences are created by the culture that we live in, whether it's the medieval culture of Westeros, or 21st century western culture.’  
I suppose this might explain why A Dance of Dragons was such an unbearably long, tedious, boring doorstopper of a book. This exact idea is something that Vox Day has addressed repeatedly in his screeds against the need for feminism and equalitarian impulses in high fantasy and sci-fi. In fact, the single fastest way to counter Martin's frankly absurd notion that "many of those differences are created by the culture we live in", is to conduct a simple thought exercise, which Vox walks us through as follows:
I used the example of a single change to a single character in A Song of Ice and Fire would have totally eviscerate the entire series and eliminated the greater part of its plot.  Consider the consequences of changing Cersei Lannister from an oppressed woman used as a dynastic piece by her father to a strong and independent warrior woman of the sort that is presently ubiquitous in third generation fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal fiction.
  1. Cersei doesn't marry Robert Baratheon.  She's strong and independent like her twin, not a royal brood mare!
  2. House Lannister's ambitions are reduced from establishing a royal line to finding a wife for Tyrion.
  3. Her children are not bastards.  Robert's heirs have black hair.
  4. Jon Arryn isn't murdered to keep a nonexistent secret.  Ned Stark isn't named to replace him.
  5. Robert doesn't have an accident coordinated by the Lannisters, who don't dominate the court and will not benefit from his fall.
  6. Robert's heirs being legitimate, Stannis and Renly Baratheon remain loyal.
  7. The Starks never come south and never revolt against King's Landing.  Theon Greyjoy goes home to the Ironborn and never returns to Winterfell.  Jon Snow still goes to the Wall, but Arya remains home and learns to become a lady, not an assassin, whether she wants to or not.
So, what was a war of five kings that spans five continents abruptly becomes a minor debate over whether Robert Baratheon's black-haired son and heir marries Sansa Stark, a princess of Dorne, or Danerys Targaryen.  This doesn't remove all of the drama from the book; King Robert could spurn Danerys and thus preserve the Baratheon-Targaryen rivalry and the threat of the Others still lurks north of the Wall.  It's even possible that the novel which now focuses on the warrior woman Cersei, her lesbian lover, Brienne of Tarth, and their brave journey north of the Wall to discover the secret of the Others might not be entirely dreadful.  One could even argue that it would have a shot at being more interesting than A Dance with Dragons.
But would it be better or more interesting than the complex intrigue and drama filling the first three books?  I very much doubt it. 
That is literally all it takes to turn a pretty damn good fantasy series into an appallingly bad one. Just a skosh more feminist cant, and the first three books of the entire ASOIAF series would have been rendered every bit as tedious and unreadable as the fifth book.

I really, really liked A Storm of Swords. I thought it was one of the best high fantasy novels I have ever read. But then, when I tried reading A Feast for Crows, I could already see that Martin was in way over his head, and in his attempts to keep introducing new PoV characters with Interesting Things to Say about the State of Women in Society, he was completely losing the plot. And if his Telegraph interview is any indication, he will continue to lose said plot in the coming sixth and seventh tomes of his already absurdly long and overwrought series.


Popular Posts